After more than 20 years of work, the Southeast Asian region is poised to finalize a landmark Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan (ROSCP), which will form a solid foundation for a new regional response regime. The development of a Regional Plan is a commitment made by the ten member states of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and is currently undergoing internal approval by the ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group (MTWG) prior to implementation.
The ASEAN member states committed to supporting the Regional Plan when the Transport Ministers of each member country signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the ASEAN Cooperation Mechanism for Joint Oil Spill Preparedness and Response on November 28, 2014. This MoU is the renewed and revitalized ASEAN Oil Spill Response Action Plan (OSRAP) that was signed in 1994 but was never implemented. The MoU is based on the principles of the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 1990), specifically Articles 5, 6, 7 and 10.
The aim of this paper is to document the historical evolution of the Regional Plan, starting from the early days of ASEAN until 2015 where it was developed by the ten member states. More importantly, this paper will highlight the current status of oil spill preparedness and response regimes in the region and how these will likely integrate into the Regional Plan when it is finally adopted. This will offer a unique perspective on the dynamics of intergovernmental agreements and on the important role of the oil and gas industry in helping governments achieve their goals of preparedness and response through capacity building and other activities, including through the partnership between the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Global Oil and Gas Industry Association for Environmental and Social Issues (IPIECA) which manages the Global Initiative for Southeast Asia (GISEA) Programme.
A SOLID FOUNDATION
The history of regional preparedness in ASEAN is complex. The timeline below (adapted from Guevarra, 2014) explores this and gives a summary of the important events and milestones that shaped the new ASEAN MoU on Oil Spill Preparedness and Response.
The signing of the MoU on ASEAN Cooperation Mechanism on Joint Oil Spill Preparedness and Response facilitated the transformation of the ASEAN OSRAP into an official ASEAN document that is signed and accepted by all the ten member countries.
A HELPING HAND
The launch of the Global Initiative for Southeast Asia (GISEA) was held back-to-back with the 4th Regional Workshop for the establishment of a Regional Cooperative Mechanism for Oil Spill Preparedness and Response in the ASEAN region. The GISEA Workshop and Launch was organized jointly by the IMO, IPIECA and the Directorate General of Sea Transportation (DGST), Ministry of Transportation (MoT) of Indonesia. The Workshop was organized within the framework of the IMO-IPIECA Global Initiative (GI) Programme and more than 70 participants attended from across the world including government representatives of the ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group (MTWG). The Workshop featured seven sessions, which gave a solid background on GI, and the rationale and details for establishing a GI programme in the ASEAN region. The event culminated in the signing of the Statement of Intent between IMO and IPIECA on the establishment of the GISEA Programme (Guevarra, 2013).
The mission of the GISEA Programme is to strengthen the national and regional oil spill response capability through cooperation between the oil industry and the authorities in charge of oil spill preparedness and response at national level. In ASEAN, a large part of this mission is the establishment of an ROSCP.
The discussions and preparations for the ROSCP started when the MoU was signed in November 2014 and progressed during a Regional Meeting in Kuala Lumpur (KL) hosted by the Marine Department and the Ministry of Transport of Malaysia. The objectives of the Regional Meeting were to review and determine the key areas for development of oil spill preparedness and response in the ASEAN region and among the ASEAN Member Countries, in order to facilitate the development of a work program for GISEA to help address the identified needs (IMO, 2014). This led to the GISEA Strategic Framework for 2015–2017, which guides the work of the Programme.
The ten member countries of ASEAN approved the Strategic Framework (2015–2017) above during the Regional Meeting in KL. As part of the planning process, a gaps and needs assessment was done and the results are summarized in the table below:
An area of obvious importance is the ratification status of various IMO conventions that pertain to oil spill preparedness and response. The table below shows the ratification status.
A key focus of efforts in the region was to support national signing and ratification of OPRC and these efforts started to bear fruit when Myanmar became the 111th State to accede to the 1990 International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation Convention (OPRC) in late 2016. The country also ratified the CLC (Civil Liability Convention) earlier in the same year.
The development of the ROSCP is one of the key objectives of the GISEA Programme based on its Strategic Framework for the 2015–2017 period. It is, more importantly, a firm commitment of the MoU from the ASEAN member countries. The MoU is the essential building block in the development of the ROSCP. The fundamental basis of the MoU is the OPRC Convention, particularly articles 5, 6, 7, and 10. The areas of cooperation in the MoU include (Guevarra, 2015):
Implement IMO conventions to prepare for, reduce and control oil spills
Undertake measures to prepare for and respond to oil spills incidents in the ASEAN region
Develop a Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan to coordinate and integrate response to oil spill incidents that may affect one or more ASEAN member or exceeds the capacity of an ASEAN member
Develop strategies and programs to strengthen capacity and capability of ASEAN members including regular joint training courses or joint exercises to improve the level of preparedness, cooperation and coordination among operational personnel and response teams
Share information to enhance level of research and studies on the scientific and technical aspects of oil spill preparedness and response
Jointly conduct and/or share the results of research and studies on the scientific and technical aspect of oil spill preparedness and response
Promote partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including ASEAN dialogue partners, governmental and non-governmental organizations and shipping and petroleum industries
With the MOU in place, plans were laid out to develop the draft text of the ROSCP. There are a number of active regional plans that can be used as a model for the ASEAN ROSCP but the critical part was to make it relevant to the current situation of the Southeast Asian region. The IMO, in cooperation with Singapore MPA (Maritime and Ports Authority) and GISEA, conducted the Regional Workshop on the Development of a Regional Spill Contingency Plan for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the end of September 2015.
The workshop brought together twenty representatives from the ten ASEAN member countries that have expertise and/or direct involvement in oil spill preparedness and response in their country. The primary objective was to initiate and develop the draft Regional Oil Spill Contingency Plan (ROSCP). This is a critical part of implementing the MOU on the ASEAN Cooperation Mechanism for Joint Oil Spill Preparedness and Response. The participants were successful in developing the draft Regional Plan and a series of follow-up actions and recommendations were proposed and agreed upon. These included the establishment of a Correspondence Group to complete the other elements (i.e. Appendices) and discuss revisions and feedback from their internal discussions with stakeholders in their own countries. The formation of a Technical Advisory Group was also recommended to ensure the effective implementation of the Regional Plan.
THE NEW REGIONAL COOPERATION FRAMEWORK
The OPRC encourages a regional approach and almost every region in the world has a regional agreement on Oil Spill Preparedness and Response. In developing the Regional Plan, some of these agreements were considered and some of their provisions were adapted to fit the circumstances in the ASEAN region. The draft Regional Plan has been undergoing internal reviews and approval processes among the ASEAN member states since its inception in October 2015. The ROSCP was written based on the following values and standards:
It recognizes the principles that are embodied in OPRC.
The regional cooperation that this Plan facilitates aligns with OPRC and is designed to integrate with other bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreements concerning oil pollution incidents within the ASEAN region;
It respects the sovereignty of each member country;
It acknowledges the diversity of the different management systems used in each country.
The coordination, control and command framework that is used when the Regional Plan is activated neither alters nor replaces the National response system of the affected State (the State that activates the Plan);
The National Plan or National response system of each member state is the basic foundation of the Regional Plan;
The preparedness levels within ASEAN vary from country to country and the implementation of the Regional Plan will need to take this into consideration. There are also a number of sub-regional and bilateral agreements in place between the ASEAN member countries, which needs to be looked at and integrated into the Regional Framework. Some of these have been in place for a number of years but rarely updated and their status remains unclear (Guevarra, 2014).
The new Regional Plan does not supersede or replace any of the agreements that are already in place. Instead, it will act as a coordinating mechanism between the member countries and will complement the existing arrangements. The coordinated, multi-country response in a major oil spill incident will still follow the National Plan of the affected state or the state that activates the Plan.
A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
The ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group (MTWG) is the custodian of the MoU. Anything regarding the implementation of these instruments needs to go through this coordinating body, which is composed of representatives from the different Maritime Administrations of each member state. It also includes “Dialogue Partners”, which are countries and International Organizations (IOs) that provide assistance and work closely with the member countries on issues of common interest such as shipping, environmental management and pollution response. These countries are China, India, Japan and South Korea.
The various matters regarding the Regional Plan and regional preparedness are discussed under the IMO-ASEAN Partnership, where GISEA sits (refer to Figure 3). The MTWG meets only twice a year so any issues that come up during these two official sessions are discussed in a Correspondence Group that is managed by GISEA. These are then presented and discussed in the next MTWG meeting.
SUMMARY AND NEXT STEPS
The ASEAN region stands on the threshold of a new era of cooperation with the development of the draft Regional Plan. Next steps will include the finalization of the text and the subsequent adoption by the ASEAN member states through the MTWG. This is likely to take place during 2017. The implementation of the Plan, once adopted, will likely be led by Malaysia, who has been identified as the potential lead country for this activity.